The findings renew calls for GPs to become more involved in maternity care, and coincide with the DoH pledge to recruit 4,000 extra midwives to relieve pressure on overstretched maternity services.
Sickle cell and thalassaemia screening should be offered to women before 10 weeks' pregnancy. But research on 1,441 pregnancies taken from 25 general practices has shown that just 4.4 per cent of women were screened before the tenth week of pregnancy.
This is despite 74 per cent of women having their pregnancy confirmed by their GP before 10 weeks' gestation.
Lead researcher Dr Theresa Marteau, from King's College, London, said: ‘One way to improve screening rates is for GPs to offer the blood tests as pregnancy is confirmed in primary care.
‘GPs could also offer the tests to women before they become pregnant so that they can identify if they are carriers of sickle cell or thalassaemia.'